Posted Thursday, February 28th, 2019

TARGET LONG-TERM FINANCIAL STABILITY THROUGH STRATEGIC PLANNING AND PARTNERSHIPS, WHILE INVESTING IN THE COUNTY’S KEY INFRASTRUCTURE

The Morris County Board of Freeholders last night unanimously introduced county government’s 2019 budget, which will slightly increase the average tax levy for county residents but will provide enhanced social services, public safety, educational opportunities, modern technology, and a continued emphasis on maintaining the county’s key road, bridge, and facilities infrastructure.Freeholders Introduce 2019 County Government Budget

Morris County homeowners will pay an average of just $11 more annually, or 0.94 cents each month, in county taxes this year to fund services and programs provided by Morris County government through the $315.3 million 2019 county budget introduced by the Board of Freeholders last night in Morristown.

The proposed $315.3 million includes a tax levy increase of just $11 annually.**

Freeholders Introduce 2019 County Government Budget

Morris County Freeholder Director Douglas Cabana

“We have carefully scrutinized all aspects of county operations to make sure we operate in a lean manner, by running a modern, efficient and cost effective county government,’’ said Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “We believe this is fair and balanced budget, which incorporates all of the critical needs of our residents for the current year, but which also takes a prudent far-reaching look at the county’s future needs.’’

The tax dollars in the proposed operating budget incorporate numerous public safety and social services initiatives, to be offered in many cases with our nonprofit providers who deal with school safety, the opioid epidemic, childcare, emergency medical services, and services and programs for our most vulnerable residents.

The budget positions the county to address emerging challenges and needs by partnering with its 39 municipalities, constitutional offices, nonprofits, and others entities on a variety of programs and projects.

It also addresses the need to maintain the county’s roads and bridges, and its technology, law enforcement, public safety, educational and recreational infrastructure that are key to the county’s high quality of life.

Freeholder Heather Darling

Freeholder Heather Darling

“Through the 2019 budget, our county will continue to be the premier place in New Jersey in which to live, work, and raise a family,’’ said Freeholder Heather Darling, chair of the freeholders’ budget subcommittee. Other members are Freeholders Kathy DeFillippo and Deborah Smith.

“This budget process goes far beyond 2019 by offering financial integrity that will position the county for future challenges. It was developed in coordination with the county’s strategic plan, adhering to the guiding principles developed in that plan, in cooperation with the county’s municipal, school, business, healthcare, nonprofit and community leaders.’’

“The freeholders want to ensure that Morris County remains THE infrastructure leader in New Jersey by continuing major investments in the county’s roads and bridges, the county college and school of technology, county parks, and our excellent public safety and communications systems,’’ said Freeholder Tom Mastrangelo, who heads the capital budget subcommittee. Other members are Freeholders John Krickus and Stephen Shaw.

Freeholder Tom Mastrangelo

Freeholder Tom Mastrangelo

While maintaining a tight rein on spending, the freeholders’ proposed 2019 operating budget continues to invest in key programs and initiatives that maintain the high quality of life in the county, and look to the future. It maintains and expands public safety initiatives, sustains all human services programs, enhances Stigma-Free tools to deal with the opioid epidemic and mental health issues, and addresses the needs of military veterans.

It supports countywide economic development, protects the county’s top-ranked Triple A bond rating, and preserves a stable level of fund balance required for well-run county governments. In addition, the freeholders are continuing the county’s voter-approved preservation trust fund that finances open space, farmland and historic preservation projects, and provides funding for recreational trails and flood mitigation.

Some new and expanded programs, to be done through partnerships, include:

  • Expanding Morris County’s EMS Initiative, to offer two additional backup units for as-needed emergency response service to all 39 Morris County municipalities;
  • The roll-out of “Navigating Hope,’’ which will deliver critical social services programs into the community, and will partner with the Sheriff’s existing Hope One mobile opioid initiative;
  • Expanding investments in community based Human Services programs operated and managed by nonprofit agencies within the county;
  • Creating a Ballistics Laboratory in the Sheriff’s Office, to support law enforcement;
  • Supporting the Responsible School Violence Prevention Program for school districts, as part of a joint initiative of the Freeholders, Sheriff, law enforcement, human services and educational communities;
  • Developing a new services-oriented county website, and new electronic online forms system for public interaction with county government;
  • Increased funding for the county park system;
  • Addressing the Emerald Ash Borer infestation that requires removal of thousands of dying trees along county rights of ways for safety reasons.

The 2019 budget strategically authorizes $33.5 million to responsibly deal with critical infrastructure needs, including county roads and bridges; public safety technology and security enhancements; parks, education and building maintenance needs

.$18.8 million is dedicated for public works initiatives and includes:

  • Resurfacing of 25.3 miles of county roads;
  • Construction of six bridges and design of nine bridges;
  • Morris View Healthcare, Historic Courthouse and other facilities maintenance projects.

The planned $7.8 million earmarked for bridge projects (to be combined with federal and state dollars) is the highest amount allocated for bridge repair and replacement in six years. Projects will target the county’s lowest rated bridges to ensure continued safety for motorists.   Planned bridge projects include:

  • Intervale Road in Parsippany;
  • Palmer Road in Denville/Randolph;
  • Passaic Street in Chatham Township;
  • White Bridge Road in Long Hill;
  • Russia Road in Jefferson Township.

Some other major capital funding:

  • $6.7 million: County College of Morris campus upgrades, including construction of Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Center;
  • $6.6 million: 9-1-1 Communications Center technology upgrades;
  • $2.2 million: Information Technology equipment and upgrades;
  • $1.9 million: Park Commission improvements, including renovation of Lees Marina;
  • $1.6 million: Morris County School of Technology upgrades;
  • $1.2 million: Head Start Program expansion and renovation (loan to be repaid);

The freeholders will consider adoption of their operating budget at the Wednesday, March 27 evening meeting in Morristown.

Please take a look at the county’s 2019 proposed budget, and PowerPoint presentations on the proposed 2019 operating budget and capital budget.

To view previous county budgets, visit: https://morriscountynj.gov/transparency/finance/

(**The price of an average property in Morris County is $462,400.)